Why I Had No Intention To Breastfeed

To all of my formula feeding mothers out there – I get you. The intent questioning, the lectures, the rude remarks, the dirty looks whilst mixing a bottle in public. I get that, and I get you.

There are a dozen and one different reasons why you may have decided that formula was the best choice for you and your baby. Maybe you struggled to express and needed the help with feeds during the night shift. Maybe you were in too much pain to go on. Heck maybe you just didn’t want to breastfeed. Each and every reason is a very valid reason. A reason that you don’t have to justify to anyone.
Whatever your reason for formula feeding though, you’ve probably spent way too many moments consumed with guilt, wondering if there’s something you could have done better, an oatmeal cookie you could have consumed to increase supply (maybe you’ve tried three or four, but that next one may have been the one). Or a gadget to help baby latch that only frustrated an already confused baby further. Or perhaps the solution to your problem was simply pumping for 11 hours a day instead of 9? With only the small price of your sanity to pay.

I think that there are several factors assisting in the survival of the negative attitude toward formula feeding mothers. The  greatest of those reasons being that we are continually led to believe that we are doing something wrong. For example, Australia has a less than appreciated message to share with to all formula feeding mothers. If you venture onto the website of any formula manufacturer –  perhaps you’re being a “good mum” and researching which formula is nutritionally best for your child – it doesn’t matter – you’re greeted with a pop up letting you know that “breast is best” and (in essence), that you should reconsider your choice on how to feed your baby. Instead of clicking the little “x” in the right hand corner of your pop up that as you would typically when being notified you’d won a million dollars for being the eight gazillionth visitor a website you’ve found on the eighth page of Google – they’ve removed this – and to continue browsing you instead have have to scroll to the bottom of this obnoxious little pop up and click “I understand”. I do understand that this is a legal requirement here – but is it really appropriate? To guilt a mother that may already be struggling internally with her decision to cut her breastfeeding journey short out of sheer necessity?

It isn’t just websites however. It’s also written on a leaflet inside the tin of formula I’ve just purchased. Not to put any particular brand on blast here – but this leaflet declares “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Breastfeeding is best” between the lid and the seal. You couldn’t miss it if you tried. Like, well thank you, Captain Obvious? If I was capable of producing the golden elixir of life myself for free, I wouldn’t be shelling out the $19.95 for your product, now would I?

If that weren’t enough, it’s also on signs plastered all over the walls of antenatal clinics, and medical staff are seemingly encouraged to push breastfeeding too. A lot of people wouldn’t see this push as a problem, but consider this. At about 17 weeks pregnant, I had an experience with a nurses assistant who was collecting basic information about me prior to my meeting with a high risk specialist. She was collecting the usual – my weight, height, medical history – that sort of thing. She asked if I intended to breastfeed, and I told her no. She was disgusted by my answer and made no attempt to hide it. She demanded, not asked, but demanded to know why. I simply told her I had to formula feed. I had already come to terms with having to deal with being judged or overshare personal information about myself (LOL at past me – we now have a blog!).
The issue is that I have Epilepsy, and my medication is passed in high concentration through breast milk – a significantly higher concentration than what was passed through the placenta during pregnancy. Both the manufacturer and my neurologist recommend not breastfeeding due to the risk of the baby contracting Steven Johnson’s Syndrome. If you don’t know what that is, google at your own discretion. There’s a reason it took just shy of a year to slowly wean me onto this particular drug – and SJS is it.
She went on to ask which medication I was taking and of course, I told her. She mispronounced it as she told me it was safe (comforting), then asked what it was for (ultra comforting). I explained to her – respectfully of course –  that no, it was in fact not safe, to which she argued with me before using Google to research the drug further (comforting climax). In all honesty I probably should have reported her that day as I’m sure that being a medical “professional” some women would have assumed she’d know what she was talking about and just taken her on her word – but as I stated above, the choice to formula feed was a difficult one, so I did my research. Research she should have done before irresponsibly pushing her personal agenda. On my exit I was handed a collection of brochures on breastfeeding, as well as resources to utilise if I was having a problem. What I would have liked, is one of those little boobie-bibles to instead be a few paragraphs of information on how to select a formula that’s right for your baby if breastfeeding just wasn’t working out for you. Do you know how long I spent standing in Coles Googling what HA or Gold+ was supposed to mean? I don’t, but I’m sure it was way too bloody long. But of course, the first rule of fight club is we don’t talk about fight club.

Finally, we’ve arrived at the important question (drawn out drum roll please). Is your baby fed? Growing? Happy (often, not always)? If you answered yes, then congratulations! You’re doing fantastic! Feeding a baby looks different for every woman, and listen, you’re doing great! You’re already worrying about what’s best for your baby! There is no one size fits all formula to success when it comes to nourishing that newborn. In a few years, breast or bottle will be a topic you never have to speak on again if you don’t want to. So enjoy your precious moments feeding your baby now, however that looks for you.

Oh, and PS: Remember that they’re all going to grow up into Cheetos munching, Red Bull chugging teenagers anyway!

Tiff xx

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SAHM Tips For A Productive Morning Routine

Hello ladies!

We all know that being a stay at home mum is far from easy, and at times can be quite chaotic and incredibly stressful, so I was inspired to make this post after falling down the “My morning routine” Youtube black-hole this afternoon (…is anyone else obsessed with those?). I envied their productiveness and despite only one or two actually having children, they all had one thing in common. All of them seemed to have a consistent “routine”. So, I reflected on my own routine for a while, and ta-da, here we are. I’ve compiled a few tips that I’ve recently implemented and have benefited from when it comes to being a more productive (and in turn happier) mum.

Wake up an hour (or two) earlier;
Okay, so this one’s not for everyone. Hear me out though! If you aren’t already waking up at the ass-crack of dawn (excuse the Aussie colloquialism there but I felt there wasn’t quite enough emphasis if I simply said “waking up early“), waking up earlier than your children gives you the chance to get a few things done that might take (infinitely) longer than it would if they were around to “help” you. For me, I’ll start a load of washing, spray and wipe counter-tops, clean the bathroom mirrors and do a bit of tidying in my daughters room. Following that, provided my daughters still snoozing, I’ll sit down with a coffee and read (or write) a blog post or two, then get myself ready for the day. Realistically, this is about when she wakes, as she’s sensed that the coffee is fresh and warm and in my hands, so I usually don’t have the time to actually shower until nap time – but I’ll brush my hair and teeth. Small victories.

Positivity;
The next big one is a positive mindset. I like to start my day with some exercise – actually, that’s a lie. I don’t like to start it with exercise, some days I’d go as far as to say I loathe starting my day with exercise. But nonetheless, I start my day with a 20-30 minute jog or speed-walk on my cheap cheap slightly questionable eBay treadmill. Why? It leaves me feeling energised, awake and fresh (after the shower that follows, of course), which has me in a clear positive mindset for the rest of the day. I find I’m a lot more productive and get my tasks at home done much more efficiently if I’ve taken some time to work out, and at the end of the day I seem to sleep much more soundly as well. Win-win.
If a morning jog isn’t for you though, I’d try making the bed. It gives me the same (though slightly watered down) mood boost, weird, right?

Prioritising
Now that we’re feeling fresh and positive, it’s a good time to start all of the tasks that take the longest or that you want to do the least and get those suckers out of the way first. Otherwise, I find that if I put off a task that I really should do, but am not thrilled to be doing (ahem, bleaching the shower) I put it off until I’ve found an excuse not to do it at all. If that’s that’s the task I envisioned the Becky-Home-Ecy version of myself doing first, I’ll occasionally even run out of time to do the jobs or errands I had intended to do later. I don’t mean to, it’s just that every afternoon after a long day of trying to interpret baby babble and picking up banana puffs from the floor I hit a wall. A wall of exhaustion and “I can’t be bothered now” attitude. I know I’ll get there, it happens on the daily. Yet there I was at procrastination station, ready to board a train to nah-she’ll-be-right-I’ll-do-it-tomorrowville (I’m now editing this post, and see that this is a bad joke, it stays, nonetheless).

Prepare the night before
This one almost seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but I’ve only just recently started doing this one myself – and that is to lay everything out the night before. For me, this is choosing an outfit for baby and I, packing her lunch, setting aside my travel mug with a spoonful (more than I should be having) of instant coffee inside, filling up the kettle so I’m not wondering where the horrendous hissing sound is coming from when I stumble out of bed and flick the thing on, and ensuring that the nappy bag is fully stocked – you get the idea. Doing this has saved me so much time. I would always underestimate just how long it actually takes for me to get us both ready, and everything always seems to take so much longer when you have somewhere to be. It might even give you enough time for a real sit down breakfast. But if you have children, I make no promises.

Make a to-do list
Finally, I’m a list person. I’m very fond of a good list. Why? Because they’re a great motivator! Seeing those little check marks next to the tasks nearing there due date is such a mood booster, and it motivates me to “see how many more I can get checked off”. Plus, if you, like me, have an awful memory, it keeps you day from being plagued with “I’m totally forgetting something important” thoughts. Less stress for you, and less confusion when your phone has been shut off because you’ve not paid your bill. (One time this has happened. One. Why? Because now I write lists.)
Seriously though – try this one. It’s very satisfying.

So there we have it, my five biggest tips to boost the productivity of your day! Let me know if you have any more that I’ve missed or any tips you have for me!

Tiff xx

My Experience With Having Children Young…And A Partner On The Other Side Of The World

Okay so maybe I’m not fresh out of middle school doing-homework-in-the-waiting-room young (not that it’s anyone’s place to judge me if I were), but I’m still young enough to have copped an extra serve of side eye throughout my pregnancy. I  was pregnant at 20, and had my daughter at 21, and the amount of negative remarks I received from strangers, mind you, was uncanny. I’m 5’1, so I’ll cut some of them some slack and I suppose when I’m fresh faced, I do look a little younger. Despite being engaged, I also received my fair share of single mum judgement, which I found a little…bizarre. What I also found bizarre, was the young-mother judgement I faced from (ex) acquaintances, who are simultaneously against abortion. It seems are if we were both a little confused there.

For the most part, I travelled alone so perhaps this was a contributing factor. I attended appointments, lab work and ultrasounds unaccompanied, which added a whole new layer to the pity I seemingly received. My partner – and daughters father, was still living and working in the United States. Visas are incredibly expensive, and my insurance in the USA did not cover pregnancy, so, alas, we were forced to live apart until 10 days before the birth of our daughter – but that’s a whole other story.

Every appointment I was met with “where’s dad?” (the babies, not mine of course) which I had anticipated, so I’d repeat the script I had mentally formulated explaining my situation – which was always met with a lot of questions and aww-ing. I could tell they didn’t believe me. We were faced with a lot of unfortunately timed set backs, so he was unable to attend any of my appointments at all, and each time I’d remind the doctors (or midwives) of my situation they’d ask “so when will he be here?” From about 15 weeks onward, I’d usually respond with “hopefully in a few weeks”, and in all honesty, I don’t blame them for thinking there was nobody coming, but, they didn’t have to make it so obvious. There was always a long pause followed by the tone. You know the one. Cousin Marys’ gold fish has just died and she’s throwing a funeral for it. You attend to support her but your words of comfort are forced, disingenuous and you’re slightly judgemental of the whole situation but you’re trying to be there for her anyway. That tone. One doctor even made sure to tell me how her mother was a single mum and it’s tough but you get through it. Not in a story sharing kind of way, but in an attempt to be encouraging (I appreciated that, kind of).

Worse still, an ultrasound technician during one of my early scans followed up our conversation on why I was “alone” by asking my age – at the only ultrasound my mother was able to attend with me mind you – and before I could answer she glanced at my paperwork, skim read her way to my date of birth and let out a “oh thank god, we’ve seen a few kids having kids today”. Ah, sorry, but what? My mother and I glanced at one another clearly with the same thought running through her mind – “did she just say that?” and sensing that we were now slightly uncomfortable, she quickly announced that “baby has a lot of hair!” That’s fantastic Judge Judy I’ve just bought a few cute bows – but I really hope you keep your comments to yourself in front of mothers born after ’99.

At the hospital I was advised prior to birth that I’d be meeting with a social worker prior to being discharged. Odd, I thought. When I asked why this might be being that I had never been in trouble with the law nor failed mandatory drug tests, I was told it was “to make sure I didn’t have a seizure whilst holding baby and that there was someone with me at all times just in case”. This was very obviously fabricated for several reasons. First and foremost, no social worker is capable of “preventing a seizure”. They aren’t even capable of proving first aid in the event of one. Secondly, I was under the care of a fantastic neurologist who has kept me seizure free for over seven years. Seven years. Finally, did we forget about her father? Who, at the time, was in the room instead of joining us via Facebook messenger video link. I questioned this, and there was a subject change before she hurried out of the room and sent the student midwife in to finish up. Her unwillingness (or inability) to explain any further was a bit indicative of the fact that my seizure disorder was being used to cover up the real reason, which I’m convinced was a combination of my relationship situation as well as my age. Though this I cannot prove.
I however go on to ask a few of my younger mum friends whether they saw a social worker and unsurprisingly, they all said yes. For various flimsy reasons. No support was offered nor was baby looked at, they had come to check for a tidy home and a child that was wearing clothes. The single ones were even “checked in on” every few days for the first few weeks. I then asked my older mum friends – those in their late twenties and early thirties and interestingly, no social worker. Each of us (6 of us total) gave birth in the same hospital, four of us under the care of the same obstetrician. Peculiar, right?

So, to the nitty-gritty. Are things harder for me? Do I have any regrets so far? I’d have to say no. I live independently, and own my own vehicle – separate of that of my partner. I am educated, I am engaged to someone that I have been with for several years. I have the privilege of living in a country that allows you to begin work at age 14, so I managed to save enough money to purchase all of my baby items early without too much stress. A change table, crib, toys, clothing – you get the idea. This also gave me the opportunity to grow up a little. I had responsibilities outside of the home, people relying on me and a need to be punctual. I do feel as though working young (whist simultaneously studying a certification) helped shape me into a focused and responsible young adult as well as providing me with some degree of financial stability, and without this experience my situation may not be what it is. But, because I am (now) 22, it’s assumed that I am not ready. That this must have been an oops baby. Insert eye roll here.

Do I “miss out on living my life” or “enjoying my youth?” – This is a common comment I’ve received from (typically) the baby boomer generation. What is “enjoying my youth” exactly? Every time I ask this in response to the somewhat rude comment on what was at the time, my pregnancy, I get a vague answer. Generally “living” and “experiencing the world” consists of partying, dating freely, clubbing and pub crawls. Is that really better than what I have? Do I need to experience those things to make me “ready” to settle down? Thing is, I did experience all of those things. They weren’t for me. I have also travelled the world. Holidayed in Thailand, Europe, Malaysia, and, even lived in the United States for a year. Those were experiences I wanted to have before settling down, and I had them. That being said though, had I not been able to travel in my teenage and early adult years, I may have a yearning to do so now. I would encourage anyone to get some travelling in prior to children if that was something they were hoping to do someday.

So,  to the point of this rant(?). Whether someone is “ready” to have a child depends solely on them and their relationship, wants in life and ability to provide for a child, emotionally as well as financially. It’s simply case-by-case. Not all thirty-somethings are responsible wealthy happily married home owners and not all twenty-somethings are not. We must get out of the habit of judging other pregnant women – or teens,  and instead, support them. Pregnancy is hard. It’s an emotionally taxing roller-coaster. Bodies change, mindsets change and relationships will change. It will not be an easy road for any new or expectant mother regardless of her circumstances. The last thing any pregnant woman needs is the negative remarks from strangers attempting to guilt her because she is having a child. A child that they’ll likely never meet. In particular those same strangers that are more often than not pro lifers. I apologise for the ranty nature of this entry, but please, be kind to others! You can’t be truly happy harbouring hatred in your heart.

Tiff xx